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In my last blog I discussed using workshops to help advance your creative aspirations. In this post, I want to share more specific thoughts on mentorship.

To recap my last post, I found my now mentor Robert Rodriguez Jr. through the B & H event space seminars and then attended a couple of his workshops.  Through all of these interactions, we developed a comfortable rapport.  I was ready to move outside of my safe place and jump forward more seriously and meaningfully with my photography.  What was lacking for me, was individual attention and constructive critiques to help me enhance my strengths and correct my weaknesses.

During a workshop in Maine, I approached Robert about the possibility of mentoring with him. To my surprise, he was finalizing his development of a mentorship program and ready to Beta test this new project. After further discussion, I submitted my application and became one of his first formal mentees. 

Spoiler alert:  This was the best self-improvement decision I have made in my photography journey.

What to think about when looking for a mentor

1) BE CLEAR ABOUT YOUR GOALS

Perform a self-evaluation of your current skill set and decide what you want to improve on and in which direction you want your photography to move toward. In doing this, you can see the foundation that you already posses and also allows you to outline areas for improvement, helping both you and your mentor decide on realistic goals.

2) INSPIRATION

No matter what your skill set, working with someone who has established themselves in their own photography pursuits including business, can have great impact on your own advancement. Thus, growth and learning in the creative realm is never exhausted. The idea is to find someone whose work resonates most closely with your own creative aspirations.

3) TRUST

The ability to safely and openly communicate clearly about expectations and goals allows for honest and constructive critiques.  Therefore, try to find someone who you trust and with whom you have developed a rapport. Mutual respect and trust can lead to a great working relationship and sometimes even a long term friendship.

4) INVESTMENT

Should you pay for a mentor?  This might be confusing for some. I have read and heard arguments about mentorship for pay with some people believing that this form of instruction does not warrant payment. 

Your mentor is a teacher in a sense, they give of themselves to you, and that comes with a price to them. In other words, when a professional takes on a mentee, they are taking themselves away from their own work and goals to spend time with you.  So, it only makes sense that they would value their effort as such and would need renumeration for their time and expertise.

There are various view points regarding what the definition of a mentor is: someone who helps out a “new” person or an expert who gives some advice to those ask.  Others will consider a “mentor” as a coach or instructor where they offer instruction, guidance and preparation toward a specific goal.

Each professional photographer/mentor will have their own way of handling this side of their business. Be clear about the expectations and make sure the relationship is right for you.

Essentials for a successful mentorship: Clear goals, right mentor, mutual respect, commitment to do the work, open mind and have fun!

Hope this gives you some ideas to think about if you are considering a mentorship.

What kind of mentors have you worked with and what did you most like about that relationship?